That’s what we do on All Saints: we salute all the saints who have gone before us, and whose devotion to Christ provides us with the faith we have today. In fact, we would probably not be here without those who have shared with us their faith in Christ.
That is what we hear in our passage from the Letter to the Hebrews: we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (12:1). Here are the people on the balcony cheering us on, telling us stay focused on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith: Jesus Christ (12:2)!
They are the ones, as Joe Trueblood said last week, who have broken through the line of scrimmage, like a fullback, blocking ahead of us, and helping us to get through. They know how to play the game, so to speak. They are the ones who have shown us what a living faith looks like, trusting in the One who has broken through death and come out the other side to life eternal.
Therefore, when we think of saints, we typically think of people who are committed to Christ, or who have loved God and their neighbor with their whole heart and mind (Mt. 22:32-40). Yet too often, we also think of saints in some exalted sense, or in a way that seems to be superhuman. This is not a good way to think about saints. When we remember the saints, we want to remember those who are ordinary people, or those nobody remembers but whom God loves and knows.
It is, of course, in keeping with Jesus’ ministry, for Jesus did not reserve his teachings to just an inner circle. His ministry, as I understand it, was wonderfully open and public, reaching out beyond the bounds of his disciples, to include the great and the small. He welcomed everyone, even folks we would not expect.
In fact, I think sainthood is one of the miracles of the church: look around you, and you will see the miracles of God, or the ‘communion of the saints,’ as we say often in the Apostles’ Creed.
Therefore, the saints include all of us who seek to live in faith and struggle with doubt and who know they stand in need of grace and forgiveness. After all, says Martin Luther, we are both “saint and sinner” at the same time, always prone to leave God for something else on the one hand, but also always open to the Spirit’s power on the other (Luke 15:11-31).
I believe that when we come to this kind of realization, a breakthrough is taking place: God is breaking through in our lives and opening us up, to use us for amazing purposes, taking our hearts and turning them outward.
How do we see God breaking through? What is God saying to us? Where can we celebrate these breakthroughs?
Rev. Dr. Andy Kinsey